Changi Airport often boasts that it’s a destination in itself, and perhaps they’re right because it’s the catalyst for my next trip report.
In May 2023, Transport Minister he-who-must-not-be-named announced that Changi Terminal 2 would reopen in October, a few months ahead of the original 2024 target. The 3.5 year project saw the closure of an entire terminal for the first time in Changi’s history, adding 15,500 sqm of floor space, an expanded departure and immigration hall, a brand new check-in area for SIA First Class passengers, and loads of other good stuff.
Well, T2’s northern wing reopened in late September, and while there’s still a couple of features and retail outlets getting their last looks before November’s official ceremony, it’s pretty much all systems go.
At the same time, I’ve been meaning to cross something old off my bucket list: SIA’s Boeing 737-800NG Business Class. These SilkAir leftovers are, without a doubt, the worst Business Class seats in the fleet. And yet they’re also the only SIA cabin product I’ve never reviewed before.
Throw in an expiring AMEX hotel voucher, some pending Kaligo referral miles, an assortment of lounges old and new, and the answer became clear: a whirlwind trip to Kuala Lumpur to check out something old, something new.
|✈️ Something Old, Something New: Flights|
|✈ SIN-KUL||✈ KUL-SIN|
Cabin: Business (B737-800NG)
Cabin: Economy (A320)
|Cost: 14,700 miles + S$62||Cost: S$25|
First, the old.
I am quite possibly the first person to consciously redeem his hard-earned miles for Business Class on SIA’s Boeing 737-800NG.
Don’t let the NG (Next Generation) tag fool you; the seats on this aircraft are as ancient as they get. SIA inherited nine B737-800NG aircraft from its merger with SilkAir, seven of which are still operating today. These were delivered from 2014 onwards, and even though they’re technically not the oldest Business Class seats in the fleet (SIA’s primary long-haul Business Class seat was delivered from 2013), they certainly look like it.
There’s no seatback screens, no storage lockers, no full-flat beds, no reading lights, no handheld remotes. This is Business Class at its most basic, a throwback to the days of recliner seats with no frills beyond extra width and legroom.
The B737-800NGs are on operating leases which end between September 2024 and January 2026, so it’s that awkward period that’s too short for a refit, too long to keep the status quo. In the end, SIA decided to give the interiors some new upholstery, and deploy these exclusively on short-haul or low-yield routes:
- Kuala Lumpur (45m)
- Kathmandu (4h 30m)
- Phuket (1h 30m)
I figured that a 45-minute hop to Kuala Lumpur would be all the time I needed to review this fossil.
|✈️ B737-800 vs B737-8 MAX|
|Don’t confuse the B737-800 with the B737-8 MAX. Those trailing zeros can’t just be lopped off; we’re dealing with two completely different aircraft. I would fly the B737-8 MAX any day (yes, I’m aware of its legacy); I would deliberately change my itinerary to avoid the B737-800NG.|
|Business Class||10x Flat Bed||12x Recliner|
|Economy Class||144x Recliner||150x Recliner|
|Seatback IFE||Yes||No (IFE via streaming)|
It’s painful enough to redeem short-haul Business Class, much less to Kuala Lumpur, but at least I didn’t pay full price thanks to Spontaneous Escapes: 14,700 miles + S$62.
On the way back I’ll be flying Jetstar. While it was tempting to book SIA so I could use the First Class Lounge on arrival, I’m not about to say no to a S$25 fare. I have no idea how they can price it so low; the airport taxes alone are already S$13!
|🏨 Something Old, Something New: Hotels|
|Night||Hotel||Per Night Cost (Nett)|
|1||Hotel Stripes, Autograph Collection||S$127|
|2||Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur||AMEX voucher|
Even though it’s an “investment in content”, I still felt pretty bummed out about spending 14,700 miles on what will surely be the most underwhelming Business Class experience of my life (prove me wrong, SIA!).
Then I realised there was a small consolation. I could book my hotel through Kaligo and cover the miles through my referral bonus. Kaligo’s referral bonus system is a bit sneaky in the sense that it doesn’t let you cash out your referral miles until your next stay. For example, if you have 10 friends who signed up (5,000 miles total), you won’t receive those referral miles until you book another stay with Kaligo.
So I used Kaligo to book Hotel Stripes (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection), which offered 300 miles on a post-tax rate of S$127. Together with my referral bonus, I’d be earning about 13,300 miles in total, covering most of the flight cost.
|❓ Why not use the Citi PremierMiles Card?|
|Why not use the Citi PremierMiles Card, since it offers 10 mpd on bookings? Because Kaligo has a rule that you can’t cash out referral bonuses on a booking where you’ve chosen to earn bank credit card loyalty points instead of airline miles.|
For the second night, I’ll be using my complimentary AMEX Platinum Charge hotel voucher to stay at the Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur.
I personally haven’t been blown away by the rustic stylings at the Banyan Tree Samui and Banyan Tree Lang Co, but this would be a good opportunity to see the chain in an urban setting, and the publicity photos look more in line with the contemporary style I prefer.
|🍸 Something Old, Something New: Lounges|
While SIA flights to Kuala Lumpur depart from Changi T2, there’s nothing stopping you from hopping on the Skytrain and heading to the T3 lounge instead.
That’s exactly what I intend to do, because I need to update my SilverKris Business Class Lounge review. I visited on opening day on November 2021, when social distancing was still a thing, no self-serve buffets were allowed, and the First Class section was nestled inside the Business Class lounge.
It’s a very different lounge now, so an updated take is much-needed.
After that, I’ll hop over to T2 to check out the Connect at Changi Lounge, a unique coworking space cum café that was recently added to Priority Pass. Members can get a 3-hour visit and a S$20 credit to spend; could this be an even better place to get work done than a lounge?
Jetstar operates out of KLIA T2, along with all the other budget carriers. This means I won’t be able to check out the renovated Plaza Premium Lounge that Singapore Airlines uses (which is in T1), but I can visit the Sky Suite Lounge instead.
My main gripe is its landside location, which means you’ll need to budget enough time to clear security and immigration. That said, I do notice that Priority Pass has a partnership that grants fast-track access to cardholders, so I’ll be sure to check that out too.
Changi Airport Terminal 2
Following a multi-million dollar renovation, the new-and-improved Terminal 2 is now the largest in all of Changi Airport, with handling capacity for 28 million passengers a year.
Departing passengers can take advantage of a central common-use Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) zone, with more automated check-in kiosks and bag drop machines. Similarly, immigration halls have been expanded to support additional automated immigration lanes. Travellers using wheelchairs and family groups of up to four persons will be able to enjoy fully automated Special Assistance Lanes at both arrival and departure immigration- a first for the airport.
The famous clacking Solari boards are now gone, but their memory lives on in the form of Flap Pix, an interactive art display made from the board that used to hang between rows 3 and 4 in the departure hall.
Passengers are invited to choose from one of several preset designs, or snap a photo and project it on screen.
What I’m mainly interested in, however, is the new premium check-in area for Singapore Airlines First Class and Solitaire PPS Club passengers. This will hopefully provide a hint as to what SIA’s plans are, when they finally renovate the corresponding facility in Terminal 3.
My next trip report will feature an updated take on the flagship SilverKris Business Class Lounge at Terminal 3, an intriguing new coworking space at Terminal 2, Singapore Airlines’ old-school Business Class seat, two good-looking hotels in Kuala Lumpur and more.
Something old, something new, coming up soon!